WASHINGTON -- The NHL's second-highest scoring team during the regular season is finding out that scoring against the Washington Capitals is not as easy as it used to be.
As the Capitals and Boston Bruins prepare for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC), the Caps are a confident bunch embracing coach Dale Hunter's system.
The Bruins are searching for ways not only to beat goalie Braden Holtby, but also to get pucks past any Washington players throwing their bodies in front of oncoming rubber.
Holtby has turned aside 72 of 74 shots for a .973 save percentage, while his teammates have combined to block 49 others.
"Every team in the playoffs comes out of their comfort zone and they know what they have to do extra," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's not surprising. It's just that the commitment is there and they've got a good commitment as far as [shot blocking] is concerned right now. [The] New York [Rangers are] probably the team that we can identify as the team blocking the most shots [in the regular season], but now everyone is jumping on board with that."
Washington's commitment to defense has the Bruins on the verge of their lowest three-game offensive output of the year. Only once during the regular season did the Bruins score fewer than five goals combined in any three-game stretch (Boston was held to four goals in three games from Dec. 5-8).
Through two games against the Capitals, the Bruins have been held to just two goals. None of Boston's top-six forwards have found the back of the net.
"They definitely surprised us," said Boston's No. 1 center, David Krejci. "We all know that they're a great team offensively, but they showed us in the last two games that they can also play really good hockey defensively. So we were looking at those last two games, working on a few things, and we hope that it works tonight."
BOSTON – After playing nearly eight periods of hockey over the course of two of the last three days, the Boston Bruins held a team meeting and did some off-ice work instead of practicing on the ice as a group Sunday.
Rask, who is still working on getting up to full strength after injuring his groin in early March, will travel with the Bruins to Washington, where the Bruins will play Game 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals this week against the Capitals. The series is tied 1-1.
Rask was scratched for the first two games of the series and Khudobin dressed as Tim Thomas' backup.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who has been out since April 5 with an upper-body injury, will not travel with the team.
"He's going to stay here and continue to get treatment," Julien said about McQuaid. "You know, right now he's not ready to go on the ice. So he's going to continue treatment, and when he's ready to start working out with the team, we'll bring him with us."
BOSTON – The Boston Bruins missed an opportunity to put a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with Washington by dropping a double-overtime thriller in Game 2 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
But they know from their own experience and by looking at the rest of the League that a split in the first two games is a fortunate circumstance. Last year they lost the first two games at home to Montreal in the first round, and Pittsburgh and Vancouver dug themselves that same hole this season. Home teams struggled during the first week of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Yeah, I think everybody so far has lost home-ice advantage, but that doesn't mean you can't regain it. You get two more games to go there and regain that so it's, hopefully it's temporary for us anyways," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team held a meeting an off-ice workout at TD Garden on Sunday. "The other part is, that's parity in this League. When you look at the number of wins the top team has versus the eighth-place team, regulation wins, there's not that big of a difference. So I think people have to understand that it's a lot close than (No.) 1 against (No.) 8, as far as the gap's concerned. There's not that big of a difference."
Boston forward Brad Marchand believes that when it comes down to it, the venue has little impact on the events between the two teams.
"Even if you play at home, it's the same game on the ice. It really comes down to who wants it more and who has more heart and desire out on the ice," Marchand said. "Home-ice advantage just means you're in front of your home crowd, but really it's up to the guys in the room and that's really what it all comes down to. It's the same game on the ice."
BOSTON – After he was limited to just one shot on goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Boston on Thursday, Washington star forward Alexander Ovechkin’s task in the second game is to find more room to work against the Bruins’ defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
If Ovechkin is looking for a little relief from his coach manipulating the matchups, Dale Hunter doesn’t sound like a man who plans to back away from allowing that marquee showdown to continue through Game 2 on Saturday and beyond.
“You can mix around lines, but pretty much even strength it was an even battle both ways through the whole thing,” Hunter said in reference to the Bruins’ 1-0 win in Game 1. “Until an overtime goal, it was pretty much even at even strength. Power-play time, they did have some more scoring chances because they had more power -play time. But as far as even strength, it was pretty even out there.”
The Capitals know that Ovechkin can’t beat the Bruins on his own, so his linemates are going to try to find way to aid the sniper’s cause.
“There’s things we can do. We know that he’s going to be keyed on, especially [by] Chara. He’s going to try to come across the ice a lot and pinch Alex,” center Brooks Laich said. “We can try to talk to him, we can try and get our bodies in the way. But when we get the puck, we have to skate. If we move the puck quick before they’re able to adjust their defense, whether it’s from the wing to the middle to the other wing or diagonal all the way, there’s some things we’re going to have to try to do.”
BOSTON – An ineffective power play was maybe the only thing standing between the Boston Bruins and an easier road to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
Boston improved against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, but still finished the 2011 postseason just 10-for-88. Against Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday, the Bruins’ power play was 0-for-4, a reminder of the 0-for-21 Boston compiled in last year’s first round against Montreal.
Rich Peverley had maybe the best two scoring chances during the Bruins’ man-advantages, and they both came on the same sequence. He sees room for improvement heading into Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday.
“We definitely had chances, but I think quality chances, Grade-A chances, we definitely have to improve on,” Peverley said a couple hours before puck drop. “We’ve got to have a net-front presence, and if he’s [goaltender Braden Holtby] coming out and challenging, we’ve got to have a guy in his face.”
BOSTON – Somewhat lost in Braden Holtby’s 29-save performance in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut Thursday was the roughing penalty the rookie goaltender was called for against Boston center Chris Kelly.
Holtby and the Washington Capitals killed the penalty but when on to lose the game, 1-0, on a Kelly overtime goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden. However, the message Holtby sent about not trespassing on his territory might be beneficial as the series that continues Saturday goes on.
“That’s my game. That’s where I like to [be]. It’s my crease,” said Holtby, who conceded he shouldn’t have taken the penalty. “I don’t really like to let anyone in there because I want to fight as hard as I can to find the puck and to make saves.”
Holtby’s always been a feisty goaltender, according to coach Dale Hunter. And that the penalty occurred in the same crease Boston goaltender Tim Thomas decked Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the Stanley Cup Final last year was not lost on the 22-year-old netminder.
“It was funny actually, when I was at home [last June], my buddies and stuff were saying that that was a play that I would make,” Holtby said. “So it’s good to see and it’s a good competitive game out there.”
BOSTON – The stiches above Marcus Johansson’s left cheek tell only part of the story.
The Washington Capitals were credited with 22 blocked shots in their 1-0 overtime loss to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday night. And the notches in Johansson’s face were the result of one of his two big blocks.
“You just try to stay in the shooting lane, and sometimes you have bad luck, and the puck came high a couple times,” Johansson said after the Capitals practiced at TD Garden on Friday in preparation for Game 2 on Saturday. “But right now it’s just a matter of blocking a shot and it’s not that bad. It hurts a little but it’s OK.”
Washington was ninth in the League in total blocked shots during the regular season. But the commitment to risking life and limb was part of an overall defensive improvement that pushed the Capitals into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season.
“We’ve been sacrificing a lot down the stretch here,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “We blocked a lot of shots. We know it hurts and stuff, but the guys are doing it to save some of the shots on net. It’s a sacrifice by the guys.”
He’s also the team’s “designated shopper” and one of the caretakers of the team’s excellent chemistry.
It was Ference’s eBay shopping that produced last year’s atrocious-looking Bruins jacket that the team handed out to the player of the game after every postseason win en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. This year, Ference went to a local hardware store and purchased a 2-pound metal chain.
“Earlier in the year we talked about, when things weren’t going so great – a lot of teams probably could say it – but we have our success when everybody’s going and doing their role, so we had talked about not being a weak link and having a lot of pride,” Ference said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden Friday. “Our guys kind of thrive on that. You know we have a lot of proud guys in this room. So it’s just kind of from that and being goofy. Not necessarily trying replicate the jacket but it’s kind of a fun thing to do after games.”
Chris Kelly, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday, was the first winner of the chain. Kelly will be responsible for awarding it to the winner after Boston’s next victory. Game 2 of the series is Saturday at the Garden.
The chain also has a padlock on it with a Bruins spoked-B logo that Ference engraved himself with a kit in five minutes. The plan is to put a notch in the lock after every playoff win. Last season, as the playoff run went longer and longer, the jacket took on added meaning – first with Nathan Horton returning while injured to award it to Rich Peverley, and then with the Bruins giving it to the retiring Mark Recchi as a parting gift after the championship run.
Regardless of how the Bruins fare this postseason, the chain will be another representation of the Bruins’ unity and ability to not take things too seriously.
“It’s not like you want to put too much significance on fun things like that. They’re fun, kind of goofy things to do,” Ference said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s like one of those ingredients that goes into having a good environment to work in. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or business, I mean employees that have fun and enjoy goofing around and don’t take themselves so seriously, I think we found a lot of success in that. Even with our success last year, I think that we’d like to think that we take some pride in remaining somewhat true to our roots and kind of what’s the sport’s all about. I think that once you lose that, you kind of lose the soul of what hockey is pretty proud of.”
David Krejci did not skate Friday at practice for the Boston Bruins, one day after being knocked to the ice by a pane of glass at TD Garden during the team's postgame celebration.
After a Friday morning practice at TD Garden, Bruins GM Peter ChiarellI said that Krejci was day-to-day. His status for Game 2 is unknown. Krejci, in brief comments to the media Friday, said he has a sore neck, but expects to play.
"I feel good...I've got a little sore neck but other than that I'm good," Krejci said, according to Bruins.com.
Krejci and the rest of the Bruins were celebrating Chris Kelly's goal 78 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 win and 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals when a pane of glass fell and hit Krejci.
The force of the blow knocked him to the ice, but Krejci did skate away from the incident after a teammate pushed the pane of glass, which did not shatter, off of him. Krejci centers Boston's top line, but the Bruins went with normal wing Rich Peverley between Milan Lucic and newcomer to the group Jordan Caron during practice Friday.
"He's fine. ... He was a little bit stiff around the neck area this morning. He was scheduled to skate and I talked to the trainer and together we came to terms that it was better if he stayed off and feel even better tomorrow,” coach Claude Julien said. "But he was scheduled to go on and he’s scheduled to play [Saturday]."
Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.
— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL